The 2021-2022 Brownbag Seminar Series

Welcome to our 2021/2022 Brownbag Seminar Series! We have in our line up this semester four well versed speakers who will be leading the discussion on pertinent topics of their respective fields. Bookmark your calendars and make it a date to join us as we discuss these important subjects and how they affect the continent.

Don’t miss our next talk in the series with

Mary Owusu, History Department, Carleton University
Topic: Women as Intellectuals: Nation-building, Knowledge-making, and the Writing of History
Date: April 6, 2022 | 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (EDT)
Moderator: Dr. Shireen Hassim, Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics.


This talk expands upon the nation-building accounts of nationalist historiography. It highlights female intellectuals, who, though exist through the 1930s to 1960s, have been erased from dominant accounts about Ghanaian intellectual history and the project of nation-building. One reason for the silence of dominant scholarship and nationalist narratives on female intellectuals is that the females, unlike their male counterparts, did not write great books. Another reason is the focus of nationalist historiography on the male writer-intellectuals who led protests and anti-colonial movements. While politics did shape intellectual life in Ghana, it is no reason to think this reading of intellectuals must be permanent. Nationalist histories that include women exist. The problem is that such histories focus on an unvariegated anti-colonial women’s movement that broadly feature market women and grassroots politicians most of whom are presented as either unlettered or barely schooled. This talk explores how to situate the writings and works of female intellectuals who pondered over the problems of Ghana contextually, and contemporaneously.


Mary Owusu teaches African history at Carleton. Her research interests lie in the areas of African intellectual, political and development histories. Owusu’s research uses a pedagogical lens to explore Ghanaian and West African history. Her methodological approach challenges dominant frameworks in the writing of history and how that impacts processes of memory making and meaning making. Owusu is passionate about writing critical transnational histories that paint a more textured picture by giving voice to marginalized events and personalities.

Dr. Evelyn Namakula Mayanja, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, Carleton University
Topic: “The precarity of women and children mining for renewable energy and Tech industries: The case of the Democratic Republic of Congo”
Date: February 17, 2022 | 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (EST)
Moderator : Dr. Christine Duff, Director, Institute of African Studies

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is endowed with the world’s minerals demanded by tech industries to producer products that have become necessities in the developed world and for renewable energy innovations. As it is with many African countries, mining has failed to engender development, peace and security for local communities. The extraction and smelting of the minerals mostly by mining companies, has not only devastated the environment, land, and water; it dislocates communities; exposes them to armed conflicts and increases poverty. The failure of mining activities to improve communities’ livelihoods forces women, children and young people to work under difficult and inhumane conditions in and around the mines. Moreover, no formal effort has been made to interrogate the voices of the very people most impacted by the extraction of the minerals. My research work focuses on grassroots agency and local cultures to engender homegrown governance mechanisms, policies and practices that reinforce people’s livelihoods, security, and environmental protection. My research advances the idea of community-based natural resource governance and ‘green peacekeeping’. In an environment where the DRC’s resources have been plundered for centuries and in the process their environment degraded, the people in the DRC.

Dr. Evelyn Namakula is an Assistant professor in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University. She is the recipient of the 2020-21 James N. Rosenau Postdoctoral Fellowship from the International Studies Association (ISA), which recognizes excellence in scholarship, outreach, and professional development in academic settings. Her doctoral thesis, People’s Experiences, Perceptions and Images of Conflict and Peacebuilding in South Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, received the University of Manitoba’s Distinguished Dissertation Award. Dr. Namakula’s interdisciplinary research work follows trajectories of critical analysis, decolonization, and African Indigenous philosophy at the intersection of global political economy, natural resources, race, politics, and governance. Her research examines issues of governance, peacebuilding and peacekeeping, security, labor, gender, and human rights challenges associated with the political economy of mineral resource sectors in Africa.

See event poster.

Watch Video here.

Mnena Abuku, Open AIR Researcher and Queen Elizabeth Scholar
Topic: Why Should I Live by Your Labels and Limitations? Reflections on The Dungeon
Date: March 9, 2022 | 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (EDT)
Moderator: Dr. Nduka Otiono


The Dungeon”, the latest of my creative works is  adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”  This work explores the indigenous cultural background of Nigeria in West Africa. It relates the deep decay in society where politicians use money and power to exploit the poor. It questions corrupt leaders, who have no political ideology, blueprint or plan but forcefully stay in power to rule over the people. The work also reflects the level of poverty in Nigeria. The down trodden masses continue to suffer. The poor down trodden, who have no voice, comprise of women, the rural community and children. Nora is the representation of the down trodden. This work does not only explore the issues of power play in Nigeria, but also focuses on the deep feminist and gender discourse about the institution of marriage in Africa where many are trapped in a prison of despair and sadness within this institution. Focus is on themes of drama and human rights, discrimination, exclusion as violence and abuse. Nora questions debase traditions which put labels and limitations on women through societal expectations. The Dungeon creates a theatre in search for social change in the forum of rethinking attitudes, practices and cultural ideology embedded within the script and what is prevalent in contemporary African society. Ibsen is more read or studied as a Western script, but re-interpreting it into an African setting, gives it a better understanding and inclusion in society.


Mnena Abuku is an associate professor of Drama and Theatre. She is a consultant in Development Communication and director of LuCreative. She is a social justice writer. She has facilitated several development projects working for the advancement, improvement and welfare of women and girls in disadvantaged areas and rural communities. She was previously a Queen Elizabeth Scholar – Advanced Scholars Fellow with the Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) network and has collaborated in research projects with the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT), Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya. Her research interests include Gender Innovations, Entrepreneurship, Development, Migration, Peace and Conflict Studies, Education and Inclusion.

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John Kotsopoulos, Research Associate at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Topic: EU-Africa 2.0? The Challenges and Opportunities of Resetting EU-Africa Relations
Date: March 23, 2022 | 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (EDT)
Moderator: Dr. Nduka Otiono

                                                                                                                   Photo credit: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung


After more than a year of delays marked by tensions and misunderstandings, the European Union and African Union concluded their sixth summit in February 2022. The two organizations have committed to a “renewed partnership” and promised a “A Joint Vision for 2030”, including a range of commitments in areas such as public health, trade, investment and security. Does this represent a new beginning? What has really changed? The purpose of this brown bag lunch presentation is to take stock of these commitments in light of the long-standing and persistent asymmetries between the two sides, as well as in the context of a global order in profound flux.

The presentation will explore the shifting dynamics between the main actors involved in the renewal of EU-Africa relations (e.g. the EU, the AU and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States), revealing some of the intra-European and intra-African tensions about the future direction of the larger relationship. The conclusion is that, while Europe’s status has waned, and forms of African agency have increased, lack of cohesion – and sometimes will — on either side has made plotting a completely new course difficult.


John Kotsopoulos is the acting head of the Foresight Unit at Global Affairs Canada. He is also a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). John holds a PhD in International Relations (University of Kent) with a focus on negotiation dynamics between the European Union and African Union. He has research interests in North-South relations, African international relations and foreign policy analysis. John also holds Master’s degrees from the London School of Economics and Carleton University. He is a member of the secretariat of the Africa Study Group of the Canadian International Council.  Dr Kotsopoulos writes and speaks in his personal capacity.

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